Government should cancel academic year

Wednesday May 6 2020

Pupils. Uganda seems to be heading into a

Pupils. Uganda seems to be heading into a recession in 2020/2021 financial year. FILE PHOTO 

By Obilan Abubakar

Uganda is steadily proving to be successful in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. However, managing the post-Covid-19 lockdown impact will be a tough uphill journey.

Just as the coronavirus attacks humans by reducing the oxygen levels in the blood and eventually causing the collapse of vital organs and death, it also shuts down vital economic organs, including industries and services such as farms, tourism, hotels and schools.

Uganda seems to be heading into a recession in 2020/2021 financial year. Bank of Uganda projects that at least two million people will lose their jobs by the end of the pandemic.

It also projects that 15 per cent of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) will disappear with skyrocketing prices on imports due to scarcity.

GDP too, is expected to fall from 5.2 per cent in 2019 to 2.3 per cent this year. Moreover, all the key drivers of Uganda’s economy: industry, agriculture and services, have been affected and cannot recover overnight.

Consequently, all those whose businesses are crippled and those who will or have already lost their jobs are either parents or guardians to school-going children who may fail to pay fees this year.

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This will adversely affect the education sector, which dependent on the health and soundness of the economy.

The economic breakdown could also force some private schools to shut down completely as many parents do not have money and the schools may not afford to pay their staff, yet since many teachers have either received half or no salaries at all since March.

The other dimension is that’ although the Ministry of Education has intervened by instituting learning through newspapers, self-study materials and televised lessons, such interventions fall short because the learners were not prepared for the self-study learning approach and lack technical support to facilitate selflearning process.

The big question remains whether academic institutions should reopen or not, given the established measures to contain the spread of the virus. Then there is the question of the asymptomatic cases who are potentially spreading the infection to communities inadvertently.

Their status can only be confirmed after testing which costs at least Shs240,000. The implication is that, if learning institutions are to resume any time soon, all the 15 million learners and staff in all the 23,580 academic institutions will need to be tested and isolated in their institutions of learning.

Can government commit the Shs3.6 trillion required to run all these tests? Having a temperature monitors at school may not guarantee safety of learners due to the reality of asymptomatic carriers.

Therefore, it is best for the authorities at all institutions of learning to call off this year’s national examinations and all academic institutions should be advised to redesign and plan academic programmes for 2021 unless an affirmative intervention is urgently promulgated.

Obilan Abubakar

 IUIU

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